Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sitting with fire......

First day in the office......finally checking emails. Oh, and the snail-mail. My delivery person is very kind......I found two Vanity Fairs in my mailbox. Tetrus for adults, getting all that stuff jammed in there.

Sorry, Steve.

Some great stuff I missed in a month.......

The owner of another small store in a somewhat isolated area sent along a really nice contribution to our volunteers.....small v. And a pep talk and nice note on a beautiful card that I could have really used.......three weeks ago when it was sent. This store owner is a staunch supporter of local affairs.....and locals in general. I won't mention names......but I will point out in passing that the Carmel Highlands Store kept me going with great short caffe lattes on the way back from breakfasts on the firelines every morning.....and their gas prices are the best in town. The coffee is so cheap that you have to overtip to bring it up to Kasey's financial standards.

And their dog is probably crazier than our dog. Hard to imagine, but true.

Pete Poitras......the quintessential Carmel cop from back in the era when cops could tell the difference from someone being an idiot and an actual criminal......and who actually captured a ton of bad guys, and was capable of solving even internet a photographer and has great shots of the firefighting in Cachagua. Pete will also take great pictures of your wedding, flames or not......and will not arrest your drunken brother-in-law......unless you ask him to, of course.

Finally......Mako at Tassajara has great shots of the fire ordeal at Tassajara.

As a complete infidel, I feel really close to Tassajara. My boys and I do trail work there, since we are genetically immune from poison oak, and they occasionally let us in their kitchens.

My crazy ex-wife first led me there in 1988.....the crazy ex, not the nice, sane one. I pursued her from Partington Cove wash rocks in a 1986 Firebird loaded with dive-tanks. I did the road from Jamesburg in 20 minutes of heart-stopping suicidal mania that left not a scrap of paint anywhere below knee-level on the car. I have since travelled there on bicycles, motocross bikes, clapped out trucks with parts falling off (really embarrassing at Work Circle when someone asks: "Did anyone lose the tailgate to a Nissan at the Bathtub Spring?") in deadly heat...... and lots of times in deep snow.

I drag my Stanford kids there every year for work period.....and we try to keep up with the poison oak clearing even while my own property has become Poison Oak Central. Often I feel like a Quasimodo of Tassajara: "The Oak! The Oak!"

But also: "Sanctuary!"

And.....I adopted their damn dog, deemed to aggressive for Zen-time. I should get some props.....

Here are the five monks who stayed to fight the fire.....and very possibly die in the process.

Mako, the photographer is second from left. David, who I think is the in the middle. David, in my experience is very quiet and aloof......let's be direct: he is a geek. A very sweet geek, but not my first pick as the guy willing to die horribly for his community and beliefs. Hats off to David......and it pays to pay more attention to those around us.

What horrible death?

This one. A beautiful, fit, swift buck caught in a corner on the flats on the way to the Tony Trail. I have been trying to kill the poison oak under that tree in the background for twenty years. I would rather have the buck back....I will punt off the poison oak under the tree. This is a well cleared public area, sort of. It is like seeing an incinerated buck on the lawn by the mountain at Trail and Saddle, or in the Rosenthal's driveway......a stark reminder of the fire's power.

This is the remains of the Bird House.

The Bird House was on the cliff, directly over the entrance to Tassajara above the sweet little cabin across from the Zendo. A super annoying climb up the cliff in the heat or the cold.

The Bird House was another of my failed poison oak projects. For years it was inhabited by a beautiful monk whose name I forget.....and who I had more than half a crush on. She was terrified and intimidated by poison oak....which grew lustily right off her deck. Not conducive to Zen-like peace and contemplation.

Killing the poison oak was not possible. The hillside/cliffside was all shaly, slidy rock jumble.....the poison oak was basically holding the hillside together, and with it the Bird House. So......twice a year I would climb up there, hang off the side of the deck, and chop and pull as much as I could to at least get the stuff out of the vision of Rachel or Sarah or whatever the beautiful monk's name was.

This involved not only me risking actual death. I am a clumsy, impatient Irishman....quick to anger and with little attention to detail.....especially when it comes to poison oak. I hate the fucking stuff, and can work myself into a frenzy....even on cliff faces.

This work also involved getting a co-worker to clear a safety zone below.....not easy at Work Circle when you are known as either Poison Oak Boy or the Cocksucker-Motherfucker Tree Guy. The co-worker had to be agile, wear a hardhat and pay close attention to the falling rock, while warning passing monks trying to contemplate things more ethereal than skull fracture from above.

This procedure happened twice a year....only for a morning or afternoon....but I am still often stopped by people I do not recognize who tell me that they once helped me with the Bird House Poison Oak Project.

Still.....this was one beautiful monk. And serene, to boot.

Even though I am a complete infidel.....way too ADD for zazen sitting, even with alcohol and drugs involved (I fidget....and then I know that I have disturbed the monk next to me, and know that he knows that I know that he knows that I know that it is OK, but I know that he knows that I know that he knows that it really isn't OK, but it kind of is.........). Fuck it.

At Tassajara, we kill poison oak, and drink champagne and play bocce while everyone else is sitting zazen. We are still chagrined at the time that the monks had to interrupt zazen for the first time in history to tell us to shut the fuck up.

Still....there are lessons all around, even for us ADD folk.

How about this one? From the compost shed......another source of pride and pain I share with the monks......

The Fire burned up the compost itself.....and kind of spared the shed. The broom....not so much. The pitchfork was cool to the Fire.

The Fire would like my office. So would the pitchfork.

A pitchfork would come in handy in my office.

Here is another lesson:

The Fire burned right down to the entrance fence. Those lunatic monks were right there.....but what is up with the dry old redwood welcoming fence and gate being spared when the entire mountain above burns?

Finally, back to the Bird House.....and Lessons.

One of my other jobs at Tassajara is secretly eliminating yellow jackets. The monks will put up with almost any annoyance, danger and discomfort from the animal and plant kingdom.....including crazy yellowjackets with a nest right in the middle of Work Circle.....biting monks trying to talk about Nissan tailgates in the Lost and Found.....

Screw that. I call in airstrikes. No poison too strong for yellowjackets.

One fine spring day, I was climbing back down from the Bird House deck......wondering thoughts of the beautiful monk filling my infidel head........ and I noticed a big shoot of poison oak sprouting tauntingly out almost from the precarious foundations of the Bird House.

Fucker. Do not be bumming out my beautiful monk!

There was a slight trail on the cliff face, where the monks had been trying to shore up the foundations of the Bird House itself. As I crept along the trail to the offending poison oak sprig I noticed gloves, beanies, rakes, machetes, Pulaski tools......all scattered around the trail under the foundation.

Weird. If nothing else, the monks are scrupulous about detail, tools, and work. Part of the deal is "Practice" in the medical sense......We are supposed to be focussing on our work, and all aspects of it, and every detail, and all the meanings and implications. The Tassajara garden toolshed is an exercise in ship's captain grandpa would be proud.

Here was shit scattered everywhere......What the hell? These were some lazy monks......even I would have cleaned up my jobsite better than this. the teenager in the slasher flick who goes back into the dark kitchen wondering where her friends have gone......or the guy who goes back into the spaceship after the damn cat in Aliens I........I ambled down the path towards the poison oak sprout....tittering and tuttering about my fellow man's failings.

I grabbed the poison oak sprout by the balls and gave a heroic yank to jerk it out of the hillside and away from the vision of my serene beloved......and ripped the guts out of the walls of the yellowjacket nest that its roots were supporting.

As I ran screaming in pain down the path.....scattering my gloves, beanie, tools, etc to join the others before me.....and eventually bounced down the hillside screaming: "Cocksucker! Motherfucker!".......the thought blossomed:

"Pay attention!"

I am trying........

The Gulag......update

We finally almost had a day off.....well, a two hour nap, and time for a walk, anyway. The typical gorgeous summer day returned from under the smoke and shock-and-awe. The air at sunset was were the hills out towards Mount Toro. California Gold. Ignore the crackling underfoot of the still tinder-dry golden flora.

The air was clear. Deep breaths were possible.....though cautiously explored.


On the forgiveness and recovery front......Toddie was a representative of Cachagua at the Big Sur music scene on Saturday. He was hanging out for a while on his own when someone came up and introduced himself.

"Nice to meet you. I am Todd Springs."

"No......not THE Toddie Springs? From Cachagua?"

"Uhhhh. Yeah." Flashes of the infamous Pine Cone article no doubt entering Toddie's vision.

"Wow.....I am so proud to meet you. You have a lot of friends in Big Sur. We like what you did, getting through the blockade."

A love-fest followed. A hundred dinner......lots of offers of beers, which Todd declined as a current non-drinker. Job offers even.

My favorite part of the story was the look on Todd's face as he told it. It was as if a cloud or a burden had been lifted. That whole possible deep breathing thing I was experiencing earlier today.

I started off this little adventure with no great love for Toddie. He knocked the $700 mirror off my Jaguar last year......didn't pay for it, and even fought the insurance claim. Fuck him, anyway.

But, this is the new Todd. Anger management classes. Employment. Sobriety. Calm.

Whatever motives the many nay-sayers gave to Todd for helping out with the relief runs.....I think he approached it from the standpoint of a genuine community spirit and perhaps even some contrition. It was nice to see him get some recognition in Big Sur......and there were more than a few thank you notes posted at The Store as well.

I am sure there are folks that say: "Yeah, well......check with me in five years....." I understand, but a journey of a thousand miles still must start with a single step.

On other fronts......and backs:

The shirts are in process.

The un-named local public safety organization that started this particular ball rolling wants the shirts to resemble theirs......but have no direct connection. Funds raised will go to the un-named local public safety agency.

The logo on the front will say "Cachagua Gulag"....instead of.....say "Cachagua Fire".

The delightful Resident Pass will be printed on the back in the ever so flattering lemon yellow of the original.

I was going to change all the wording to be more Cachagua appropriate: "No, those are really tomato plants in my yard......" or "Of course I am a resident, that is why I have this open container......." or "Watch out for: Pregnant pit bulls, dropped mufflers...."

But, as semi-savant says: "Just get the fucking thing done....."

It kills me not to change "Drive slow" to the actual English of "Drive slowly".......that whole adverb describing the verb thing, not a goddamned adjective......which even the ESL students at The Store on Sundays have a grip on.

Also......Fire Retardent? This must be an official Monterey County Sheriff version of fire retardant......perhaps a substance that leads to retarded public safety decisions during a fire incident. turns out my use of Kurt Cobain as an alter ego was really bad, according to The Pass. That kind of behavior IS PROHITBITED!

Prohitbiting probably involves pregnant pit bulls.......

Something completely different......

OK....indulge me.

I am a former distance runner and still a running history geek......though now the only running I do is running my mouth. My inner patriot still gets goosebumps thinking back to 18 year old Gerry Lindgren beating the professional Russians in the 10,000 meters at the Coliseum in LA in 1964.......anyone who remembers this is definitely a geek.

And, my family is from Oregon......home to running geeks for decades.

The upcoming Olympics have no allure......I have absolutely no use for anything to do with the Peoples Republic of China.......but here is some good old-fashioned hometown boy does good video from the Olympic trials.

And the stoners from the Division III school rule!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Fire Next Time......

Today we did a little lunch for ALBA outside Greenfield......Association of Land Based Agriculture or some such. They train campesinos to be farmers, and lease them land on the cheap to gradually integrate them into the modern ag world.

The lunch was about wealth creation in poor agrarian communities. There were a bunch of ag guys, some Greenfield politicians and some initialed folk......the NRFC or some such. I didn't hear much.....beyond one guy from San Benito County who wondered why no one from San Benito was there. Apparently San Juan Batista is going up the tubes: town, businesses, homes.....the whole ball of wax. It is probably of little comfort to them that the Catholic Church is the major landlord in San Juan..... get to the lunch, we traversed the length of Carmel Valley Road. The smoke this morning was the most intense of our whole month-long experience. We could barely breathe on the way into Cachagua.....and in the Valley floor it was really bad. The length of the Valley Road there was nothing to see.......except the awe inspiring campground that has fueled the fighting of this fire. Not just the camp at Tassajara and Carmel Valley Road.....but in the fields beyond where Ari died. I wonder what he is thinking about all this. His memorial looks a little bedraggled.

Don't worry, Ari. We will catch you up in a few days.

The campground was awe inspiring especially because it is now a shell of its former self. There are still dozens of giant earth moving machines, and a passel of various sized helicopters.......and a mile of tents.

The smoke was so thick that there was nothing to see from the road. I identified the CV road spillout of the Lambert Flats road.....and the Anastasia spillout.....and Piney Creek. CSS. Couldn't See Shit. The smoke continued over Cahoon view of Mrs. Cahoon's gravesite......we could barely see the oak that guards the pounding stones above the old schoolhouse that Bookenoogen personally flattened the first day he owned it.

The day kind of as hell. We met five nice people.....and none of them were Americans. The unbelievably gorgeous Latinas of King City pulled it out for us......along with a stroll through town with the hound, and a half hour in the graveyard.

When walking in a graveyard remakes your day.....maybe you need new employment.

On the way back, the famous afternoon winds had kicked up.....and we could see the hills.

At the most beautiful ranch in the the intersection of Arroyo Seco and Carmel Valley Roads....where Rose and Jeff got married......we could see fingers of fire had crept over the hill like lava flows. There were clear-burned spots......and lots of crispy red oaks. We saw some firebreaks.......think Hwy 280....cut along the ridge line.

And some back burns. Entire hillsides completely stripped of everything that had ever been vegetation. Whoa. Steep hillsides, dropping directly into the Arroyo Seco.

Along towards Piney Creek we saw evidence of mind-numbing detail work. Hand Crews had cut the low branches of a million billion oaks, dragged them down the hill and piled them up along the roadside. There were some more gnarly firebreaks. I know the Forest is closed.....but there are gonna be some really happy motocross guys as soon as the Feds leave. What are you gonna do.....shoot them?

And, coincidentally.....the motocross guys I know are often some of the same folk who carved the trails. I just hope I can keep up with them when the time comes to fire up those bikes........

All the canyon floor along the beginnings of Hastings.....where the Newt Signs begin are completely untouched and remain paradisical.

As we climbed the Cahoon Grade from the back side....we saw a tower of smoke from the far side of Chews Ridge. We joked that.....hey, after a day in King City.....we just aim for the biggest flames and drive back home!

As we cruised along the road I have done a thousand times.....past the old Howard Ranch, the flattened School Site, Piney Creek.....Hastings.....Ari's memorial....the tower of smoke beckoned.

Sure enough, as we came closer to the was right behind.

Some of our more hard core locals were in the Store. One guy is one of the gnarliest heavy equipment operators around.....and the only guy I know not on the gubmint tit. He stayed behind the barricades to defend his house. Another wood rat was also stocking up on Budweiser and the two of them told the same story:

"Old George the Cowboy (whose foto is next to Grant's at the beer tap in The Store......) was riding along the firebreak when the napalm helicopter came over. It hit on the right side of the break.....and the flames shot up like motherfuckers. They lept over the road and started a fire on the far side of the break. Flames shot up a hundred feet in seconds.

"Yeah, old George said: 'Fuck! I ain't never been so scared in my whole fuckin' life! I tole that horse, ride or we're done for!'"

"Yeah......I ain't never heard old George say 'Fuck' before.....and he said it twice in one sentence!"

"Yeah......and then when I mentioned it, he said "Fuck you...that was some serious shit!"

George is an old rodeo hand......Not easily intimidated.

What on earth was he doing riding his horse on the firebreak in the middle of a fire?

The helicopters swarmed in and doused the spillover in seconds with water and retardant.

No worries.


Seeing those hillsides completely stripped by the flames when they burned really hot, scared me like George was. The old Indians ran fires all the those old Grey, Blue and Valparaiso oaks could flourish over the scrub.....and there was plenty of room and vision to gather acorns and run down game.

Stripped hillsides scare me.

Tonight there was a meeting in The Village....a final meeting. They finally pulled the World's Most Stupid Checkpoint at 6pm. My weird, rich neighbor....the one who passed on the Thermo-Gel because it might stain her stucco....called me to rally the locals to go and give a home-team cheer to the troops at the meeting.

I tried to tell her that the folks at the meeting were the PIO's.....not the firefighters.


Grandpa Fred said two weeks ago: "If everyone just went home....this fire would go to sleep on its own......."

Grandpa Fred is the wisest soul in these mountains....and I tend to listen to the few words he shares with us mortals.......

What I don't buy into is the law enforcement end of the fire. I am tired of being a Cassandra.....I am truly sick of warning folks about things, being dismissed as a loony....and then later being proved right.

Everyone in the Upper Carmel Valley thought it was OK to be banned from their homes, livestock, loved ones, gardens, businesses.......because some vague authority figure said that it was the thing to do.

The voluntary evacuation order, and the subsequent road closure and denial of public access to public roads and private houses was complete bullshit. There is no basis in law....anywhere: municipal, county, state, federal, global....for such a declaration.

The fact that the road closure was enforced long after there was any actual danger to locals or firefighters is significant and has been missed by everyone who does not live in Big Sur.

This was a game run on all of us by a corrupt, alcoholic, power hungry politician who is reaching beyond his grasp. That paradigm is all too familiar. We.....the citizens of Monterey County...went along with it because like all beings we were enraptured by the idea of fire. Disaster is exciting.

There was no rational reason to close Carmel Valley Road at Sleepy Hollow. None of the houses or businesses on the North side of Cachagua Grade were even inventoried by the firefighters. The people, houses and businesses on Tassajara Road south of Carmel Valley Road were so far from the fire that an asteroid strike was more likely than fire danger.....especially with dozens of helicopters and thousands of firefighters living literally across the street.

There was no legal force behind any of the ridiculous, incompetent bullshit that we were all subjected to in the last ten days......and people completely bought into it.

"Oh, I need a pass.......No problem."

No one asked: "Why do I need a pass? What is the danger? Who has made this decision, and why?"

People came and went for three weeks with no problem, with no checkpoint.

The Sheriff imposed a random checkpoint....for no a practice in martial law. And everyone bought it. It was worse in Big Sur. Deputies, along with the intimidating and morbid tactic of demanding dental records.....actually confiscated fire-fighting equipment from residents.

Three times in my memory, I have used my own personal firefighting equipment to hold the line and keep fires knocked down until the troops time for an hour and a half (there were three other fires that day that had all the fire folk already committed). Jack Swanson wouldn't have a ranch if a crippled guy and I had not used personal firefighting equipment....the kind the Sheriff was actually confiscating in Big Sur.

Does anyone else think this behavior is mindlessly bizarre, insulting.....and probably criminal?

Part of our lunatic Cachagua book club involves reading not just cop novels, but historical texts. Tim Moore is the go-to guy for this stuff. War. Battles. Holocaust. Fun things.

I am always amazed by people that say things like: "I don't understand the Jews. Why didn't they just stand up? Why didn't they just run for it?" just had a game run on you exactly the same as what happened in Germany 80 years ago......enforcement of a non-existent law in the name of public order by an out-of-control and corrupt public agency, who co-opts other law enforcement agencies to go along because.....NO ONE SAYS ANYTHING.

And my neighbors want me to go to The Village and cheer about it.

I hate to be the turd in the punchbowl.....but you people need to pay more attention.

Me, Toddie Springs, the Curtis brothers.....and Diana Frietas are the only ones who stood up to this bullshit. Well, and not to get them in trouble.....but the Cachagua Volunteers opted out of the law enforcement end of things when the permits were "enforced".

And we are all on a Terrorist/Arsonist watch list. (Not the Volunteers......though they suffered the indignity of being informed that their State issued ID's were not valid to pass through the checkpoint to come and go from their houses to the fire station. Luckily, the CHP officers enforcing the charade had more sense than whichever idiots came up with that one).

Have a nice night. the midst of all this......many of us mountain folk are hard-core addicted readers. This is why I was so cheered that Alex read "The Road" in the middle of the lock-down, and that Grapevine Matt was reading "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness." And, one of our mercy-missions on the Hennickson's Ridge Runners was to go to the library last Friday and pick-up a book that Peyton had ordered and get it to him.

Emergencies are relative.

Peyton and I.....and some others.....are readers of modern cop books....actually readers of anything and everything..... and we tell ourselves that it is all literature.

I just finished the latest James Lee Burke novel....."Swan Peak" I found some wisdom there, on the last page.

Here is a quote from the latest James Lee Burke cop novel....after Burke talking about Thomas Jefferson's letters to John Adams about personal and individual political responsibility:

"A confidence man chooses only one kind of person as his victim....someone who, of his own volition, invites deception into his life. Eventually we catch on to charlatans and manipulators and ostracize or lock them away. But unlike the fifth act of an Elizabethan tragedy, order is seldom reimposed on the world. The faces of the actors my change, but the story is ongoing, and neither religion nor government has ever rid the world of sin or snake oil."

And our Incident Commander may be a hero......but why is it that all the folks who were shitting their panties about spraying pheromones against a moth that might destroy a multi-billion dollar industry in Monterey County are all lining up to sing Halleluliah about an agency that has put so many direct toxins in the air that even someone like me who is inured to poison oak, nicotine and automotive hydrocarbons....not to mention the ambient marijuana from the Mexican Mafia pot farms........ is having trouble breathing in air so thick that you can't see 5,000 foot mountains from a mile away?

My judgment is reserved until I ride those new fire trails with Callie and Gerrit......and I talk to my brothers in Fish and Game this winter about our steelhead.

Fish and Game is still.....with the CHP....the only law enforcement entity in my Valley worth even thinking about trusting.....or even worth the distinction of "Law Enforcement".

And.....Sadly.....along with the CHP, and the Cachagua Volunteers....they are the only ones completely unfunded in this debacle.

Fuck. The address for donations to the Volunteers is: Box 2090, Carmel Valley, CA 93924

Don't talk to me when the Fire comes.....

Next Time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bits and Pieces......

Things that really cheered me up about this fire experience:


My inside winery/vineyard guy who was our mole in the evacuated area. He was up at the top of Kincannon on the crazy night of backburns in Anastasia, cut off even from my relief runs with the whole world turned into boiling crimson fire.

His means of coping?

He read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.

"It made it all seem so much more real......and so much easier."

Have you read The Road?

Why does this make me laugh? In a really fun way......


Matthew, my Gruet connection at The Grapevine mentioned he was reading some cool stuff. Eric Fromm. "The Art of Living." He had "The Art of Loving" lined up for next.

I mentioned that I had a First Edition copy of "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness" sitting on my shelf, three feet from my head......since 1973.

"Wow. I have been looking for a copy of that to buy."

"Matt. I will bring it by......"

I found note cards inside from the essay that got me my only 'A' in college.....a graduate level philosophy course conducted in French.....the card mentioned my concerns about "liminalists" and the whole Life/Death thing. The word "Thanatos" was printed in really nice neat print of mine from 1976.

Matthew was really happy.


A tale of two Goddesses. First, Diana.

The idiot Sheriff gave the CHP the wrong coordinates for the first road closure. The CHP set up where the dirt started and locked down all traffic.

They were four miles short of their mark.

Our Diana hit the blockade and was cockblocked. When the officer refused to listen to the fact that her 14 year old daughter was alone in the house, a mile from the fireline.....she ran for it.

Well, drove for it. Fuck you. Her family has been in the Valley since Noah.....

The Chippies chased her down, forced her off-road, and chained her up.

The best part......when her husband arrived to help settle things out. When he saw Diana all chained and shackled, he did the courageous husband thing......

He laughed his ass off.

It is a tribute to Diana that she still talks to him......and even laughs about it herself.



When we got the mandatory evac order we were right in the middle of packing for a party that we were short-handed for.

Nike was working.....and realized her Dad and all her dog and kitty friends were trapped inside the evac zone.

Nike is 15, and balancing on a probation thing. She was possibly not even supposed to be working......and was balancing love for her Dad from fear of her mom, who had a court injunction to stay away but was ignoring it.

Nike prepped and packed our party, and then caught a ride up to her Dad's place. She loaded up the three dogs......and the fourteen cats and new kitties in the old Jeep......and drove it back down to The Store. When we rolled out for the party, she drove the Jeep up to our house so the animals could be safe.

Upon arrival at our house, the Jeep would not shut off.

"Oh, this is what it does. I just need an ice-pick or a ten-penny nail. You jam it in this hole here on the steering column and kind of pull, and the motor turns off. It sparks a lot."

Then went on to run the kitchen at an engagement party for another eight hours.

The driving age in California is somewhat higher than 15....



Deputies showed up at The Store. Casual conversation.

"Uh.....we read the blog. We really like it......."


Vicki from the Store:

"Those HotShots from Virginia are so cute.......we are all talking with Virgina accents now."


Driving up to the poor fuck CHP at the Check Point yesterday:

"Dude......Boredom is not fatal."

"Prove it........."

"Yeah, well. Thank you for your work. I wish it meant something....."

"Yeah, that makes twenty of us......."

Reality check. We have had CHP monitoring of Carmel Valley Road at Sleepy Hollow for weeks now.

I pay $250 a day for beginning caterers....with no benefits.

CHP guys start at $45,000, plus benefits. Plus the car.

Water guys in the fire are getting $900 a day each, plus $1900 a day for the truck. And none of these guys ever had to take tests, or run around tracks, or pee in bottles.....or even fill out very many forms.

We have a budget shortfall of massive proportions in California.

I am not begrudging the water trucks.......Vicki had four of them working for OtterPops today, watering my garden at the Store, and keeping down the dust around my compost heaps. Our hollyhocks are worth at least $8,000 a day, don't you think?

A useless, meaningless CHP, 24-7.....just because Sheriff Mike has ED, and ridiculous political ambitions?

We are pissing away a few hundred million dollars a day in Iraq. I really hate to see us pissing away $10,000 a day of state money at Sleepy Hollow......just to keep out Kurt Cobain....and failing.

Hey, Big Mike.......check out that whole Cialis thing. Might save us all a whole lot of trouble.

Oh.....and there is thing called "after-shave".........

The Fog of Wore.....

As in..... "Wore Out".

"Rode hard.....and put up wet!"

The Great Being above kicked my ass with that film which even now I should be sending a bill. What is it worth to have a hot meal halfway up a 4wd road in the Hollister Hills at 6am? Oh, and with a location scout so stupid she sent us a map of Asilomar for a Base Camp. Asilomar. Hollister Hills. Same thing, right?

So......figure out the location, cut the chain on the gate in the dark, pioneer up the trail to a flat spot with trees......and be ready on-time for a union breakfast: freshly scrambled eggs, sweet rolls, quesadillas, tons o' fruit, piles o' Corralitos bacon and ham, granola, Acme coffee, Odwallah OJ, Serendipity home-fried potatoes. Ready even fifteen minutes early, at 5:45.

Sorry about the cut chain, Ranger.

Didn't want to wake you.

We charge fifteen bucks for this.....well, plus a slight delivery fee.

At the Fires of late, the caterer charges $20, less some important menu items, and none of it fresh or organic.

And, get this: a bag lunch costs you and I TWENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS. The hot item from the bag lunch was the UnCrustables: plastic wrapped PB and J sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Costco sells them. You and I and the Cachagua Volunteers could have made a killing with a road-side stand selling those babies. Like jailhouse smokes.

The UnCrustables were popular......especially after the fire folk started getting violently ill from the sandwiches. It took the caterer a while to figure out the whole no-mayo in the sandwich in 112 degree heat deal. Also, there is almost no protein in the world that will not denature and dissolve into a poisonous WMD goo at those temperatures. But, hey! Whaddaya want for only $27 bucks. Well, plus delivery and service charge.

Uhhh.......Can you say: "No-bid contract......?"

Uhhhh.......Can you say: "KBR.....division of Halliburton?"

Iraq comes to Cachagua.

For the first three-week cycle, we could not keep any amount of fresh fruit in the Store.....the troops were lusting for it. Something seemed to have changed with the second cycle last week or whenever. The HotShots seemed happy with their fare......

The second three week cycle started around ten days ago. We did experience separation anxiety......the crew that volunteered to unload our van on their break from 112 degree heat; the vegan lady firefighter lonesome for her German Wirehaired Pointer puppy at home; the kids from New Hampshire.....for whom Cachagua might as well have been Iraq.

It was especially sad for me that the "Thank You, Firefighters" signs sprouted in profusion after the first rotation......I mean, they are all Firefighters......but the new crew did not get to experience those crazy 100 plus days and the original wildfires.

Not that I am complaining about the New Crew. I don't know if you noticed, but they have been kicking ass. Even Bear is chuckling from time to time.....and uses terms like "aggressive" and "maybe risky......but I like it."

Our Incident Commander is of rock star quality. I don't know if she has been in charge the whole time, but she is in charge now. I checked the Thermal Imaging Satellite last night and I actually didn't believe it. Miller Canyon was a ball of flame. I couldn't reach Bear and Rod for I didn't post it. What the fuck? They burned it up? They let it burn?

The message from Bear and Rod on the phone was something like: "There is a lot of aggressive backburning.....all along the ridge up to Chew's and down to the Dam. Bear and I are going up to Asoleado to watch the fun......."

The ball of fire was our Incident Commander backburning around all the inholdings......and running up and out from the firebreaks. She was trying to put an end to our misery and get all the backburnings done by today.

Did I say "She"?

Jeanne Pincha-Trolley.

Check it out. I apologize to Commander Pincha-Tulley if this is a bad foto....but I get the feeling she probably doesn't give a shit.

She was Commander of Tahoe National Forest Air Something Something Scary three years ago.....

After the Castle Rock fire in Sun Valley in 2007, the locals wanted to run her for President. Not of the PTA, or the Fire Wives....but the United States.

The people in Sun Valley are million-billionaires......and not given to hyperbole if it is not related to golf......but they think she saved their town. So......she is either really good, or she has a great PR firm. Uhhh......looking at the fotos on-line, it ain't the PR. Ain't no stylists in her crew.

This is a working woman.

Meet her in person here.

And here is a fire blog I wish I had found three weeks ago.

I wish she had had time to kick Sheriff K's ass.......the resultant wave of estrogen would have kept him on Cialis for years......

Here is the satellite image. This is all clean up......note Miller Canyon as a blaze of yellow now that I have missed the bus.

All this backburning was and might even be now....politically incorrect.....but it is what I have been fantasizing about every time I drive to Tassajara to do my pathetic little trail clearing missions.

What I needed was napalm.......and a note from Jeanne.

Guess what the name of the Restaurant will be next Tuesday when SmallDick lets us reopen?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Newsflash from the Gulag.....

We are preparing the T-shirts to commemorate the Cachagua cooperation with a local agency which will remain nameless.

We will sell them to support our brothers and sisters in Big Sur.....who experienced actual financial and physical loss. We were just inconvenienced.

Here is the image of a sweet fundraiser this Saturday in Big Sur. If you have never heard Nico and Rushad.....well, you might be stupid, and are certainly uninformed....but this would be a great chance to catch up. The kind of artistry that Big Sur represents in so many worlds: literature, sculpture, photography, well represented in Nico and Rushad's music. If you can't a CD on Amazon, and send a check.

We will have a challenge rematch in Cachagua. The Fire has made it clear to everyone that Cachagua and Big Sur are...... at best, five miles apart.

And........Here is the latest satellite image.....which does not match the report from Bear, or the glorious mushroom/pillar I caught on my way in this afternoon. Where was my damned camera!

Talk about performance art!

What a rush it must be to be able to create such a massive thing of beauty......a big crimson column piling and piling on itself and climbing in dead still air. Wow. I don't know how successful the backburn was in technical terms.....but in aesthetic terms it was a winner. Too bad the artist can't sign it!

According to Bear, the backburn and resulting pillar of fire was the beginning of burning up from the Dam along Hennickson's Ridge.......the route of the late Hennickson's Ridge Runners and aka Spaghetti Ridge. I don't see it on the satellite, but maybe the image precedes it.

They are going to burn on up to the top to solidify the main firebreak there. There was no mention of proceeding past Johnny Kinder's on the break and on to the Nason Ranch......but who knows. I just hope Johnny and Rogelio got some good fotos. By and Connie should have a front row seat as well.

Laurel Springs Road is closed......but not evacuated. The road closure should be short. Interesting that with the fire only hundreds of meters away there is no evacuation and drama......while residents and businesses as far away as Rancho Sin Frenos (some nine miles off) still have to show permits, and are denied the joy of the company of their friends and customers from down the Valley. In fact, even a Hiroshima sized A-bomb detonated at the dam would do nothing in terms of fire to Sin Frenos.....but would certainly up the stakes in the mushroom cloud competition.

We continue to be waved right past the CHP checkpoint at Sleepy Hollow with our visitor passes. I dummied up a blank one on my scanner and filled it out in the name of "Kurt Cobain". No one has checked my license. Amanda and I switched cars back last week and forgot to switch permits. Despite dire warnings on the permit of horrible punishments for using someone else's pass.....we have continued to scoff the procedure many, many times a day......un-noticed. Some Gulag. Only the customers are being turned away.

When I worked in New York City as a kid I had a job in the P&S Department at Smith Barney on Broad Street. We were in the New York Stock Exchange building itself. This was decades before anything electronic.....and my job was filing little pieces of paper about problem trades. In my second summer on the job I refiled the entire system by alphabetizing everything by the second letter instead of the first.......Fuckers should have paid me more than $64.50 a week.......

Anyway, also on the 10th floor was the place where the messengers brought giant checks. In the days before punks on bikes as messengers we had old, disheveled Italian and Yiddish men in funky overcoats........carrying millions of dollars in even funkier briefcases. They shuffled from Merril, Lynch to Smith Barney.....from Smith Barney to Bear, Stearns, etc and delivered big checks that closed out major summations of daily trades.

After generations of everything working fine with the little old guys shuffling off the elevator and sitting on a bench waiting their turns in a little lobby.......some genius on his way up decided that there was a security risk. After all, millions were at stake. Mostly it was just paper checks.....but there were bearer bonds from time to time. And, after all........these old guys drank a bit, smoked a lot, and smelled......a walking security nightmare.

Ignore the fact that short, smelly old foreign guys with hook noses might have trouble cashing $25,000,000 checks at the OTB or the local bodega.

Oh.....or the fact that no checks had ever been compromised in the history of Wall Street.

It looked bad.

There was a potential problem.

So.....architects were called in. Security consultants. The NYSE. Over a weekend, everything changed. There was no a secure checkpoint when you got off the elevator if you wanted to go anywhere near the money area. Us P&S guys making $64.50 a week were outside the secure were the little old Yiddish and Italian men. Everyone important had a nifty plastic security clearance. A hierarchy we had not been aware of suddenly ruled our little workplace.

Then it happens from time to time in New York City in the summer.

When it rains in New if by magic the streets are filled with Senegalese vendors of umbrellas. Why Senegalese? Where do they come from? How do they appear so quickly and efficiently.....and where do the umbrellas live when it is dry? What do the Senegalese sell the rest of the time?

No matter. On the first rainy day after the security checkpoint was installed, we all arrived with our raincoats and our new shitty Senegalese umbrellas. The little old men came in covered in crappy plastic raincoats that did little to dispell the sheepdog aroma of tobacco drenched, thrift shop wool. We all cued up for the coat room.....

Which was inside the security area.

There was chaos. The multi-billion dollar business of Smith, Barney ground to a halt as the infantry foot soldiers in the financial army tried to figure out new and different ways to store a thousand Senegalese umbrellas, and a hundred stinking overcoats.

A solution was found, one of the generals, probably the same genius who created the secure zone in the first place.

Solution? Issue everyone a security pass. So they could hang up their coats and umbrellas. And, we all got shiny new passes we had to show to the new security staff that protected the coat room.

Now....we had a new layer of bureaucracy, new employees to enforce the new rules, new architecture, new procedures that cost time and money......

And nothing had changed.

Except......there was a lot of chuckling in Yiddish and Sicilian.....and Senegalese, probably.

And.....don't get excited if you see Kurt Cobain in the security logs in Cachagua, Sheriff.

Oh, sorry. You won't see him......since no one is checking anything but the color of the paper on the dashboard.

Fucking putz. You too, Dixon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Deputy's Mitzvah.....

"When all else fails......we must WHIP the horse's eyes......
To make him sleep.....
And cry......."
Jim Morrison

We are not dead yet.

Proof once if anyone needed it.....that the deity is a female, and her sense of humor is vicious.

I would not have it any other way.

The moment I waxed nostalgic about film shoots and cameraderie.....and sleeping in, and eating sitting down.....

It turns out that a former associate signed us up for an actual film shoot in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. If we decline, we are blacklisted.

Two beach parties in a row: 13th Street and El Sur Beach.....followed by a 1:40am wake-up for a 5:30am call in San Jose......for a Suzuki commercial.


I love you, Lord.

Lady. Whatever.

Anyway, in the middle of lunch for the Suzuki shoot in San Jose......I get a call from Amanda at The Store.

James is there, and Roy Smith. There is a situation.

The situation.....considering the whole context of The Fire, the mandatory evac, the blockade, etc. etc. etc. is so exruciatingly delicious that my mind wanted to explode with joy.

But......we are all people here, struggling in this vale of tears.

We do not despise the sheriffs......we kind of despise the Sheriff. One of the sheriffs needed a mitzvah.

A mitzvah is a blessing. A favor.

A mitzvah is a do it because it needs to be done.


The value of a mitzvah.....from my understanding, involves both the cost to the giver and the value to the receiver.

A nice kid, the deputy.....caught in a problematic system. My gripe is not with the sheriffs.....but with the Sheriff. I do not trust his motivation, competence, troops, or their training to undertake his "Jerry's Kids Martial Law Practice"......but why beat up the troops.

And, to preserve the value of the mitzvah.....I can't tell you shit.

Hate the war, love the troops.

How ironic that those dispensing the mitzvah are: on probation, under indictment, under suspicion.

The last time I extended a mitzvah to a sheriff:

I was returning from a long day at Big Creek in Big Sur with my Stanford was 11pm on the Valley Road....on the straightaway by Douglas Ranch. A Sheriff unit was stopped in the middle of the road.....lights whirling.

I pulled cautiously up beside the unit: "What up?"

The Deputy was clearly in shock: "I just hit a deer. I don't think I killed it. It ran off into the brush. I get poison oak really bad.......I don't know what to do."

"Dude. Let me help. Give me your gun, and I will deal with the deer. I don't get poison oak."

"I can't do that!"

"Well, fuck. Give me your flashlight and the shotgun."

"I can give you the flashlight."

I took the light and climbed down into the brush and followed the trail. Sure enough, there was a doe....with her pelvis crush, but still alive. I climbed back out.

"Dude, give me your gun. I found her."

"I can't do that."

Fuck, man.......Where do they get these guys?

I went back to my my knives out, and took a boning knife back to the scene. I gave a prayer of thanks and sadness to The Watchers, and cut the doe's throat.....and held her while she died. Then went home.....and got up at 5am to work again.

Two days later, the same Deputy came around the corner at Sleepy Hollow in my lane and almost ran me off the road. He flipped a bitch and flagged me down.....and gave me a citation for a wheel over the yellow: "Driving in an oncoming lane, or illegal lane change" or some such. $265.

Still, I am like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football.......You gotta have faith.

Let it go. It doesn't matter. We are all struggling under the same load.....and have to pull together.

So, now.......when The Fire is out, and even the dozer guys are getting depressed at the bullshit jobs they have to pull to earn their grand a day......

Contingency line behind contingency line.......and we have a hard road closure. Locals only, with a real pass. Cachagua Fire ID cards not good enough. You work 3o hours a month for free with high skills? You have been working 90 hours a week for a month for free with high skills. Not good enough.

The Sheriff must decide on all passes.

"We have to exclude lookie-loo's."

"We have to protect the security of the locals"

"We have to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice......"

Ten days ago, we had an actual fire.....with actual danger........ The roadblock was a sign. There was free access.

The ridge was packed with lookie-loo's....drinking beers and eating popcorn and smoking fatties and watching the fire. Unlimited access to the Cachagua Valley. It was nice....a fun party, and no problems.

Now that the fire is sound asleep........they have fired up the Jerry Lewis Telethon Martial Law Practice.

Fucking absurd.

My dearly beloved Irish grandmother loved her grandkids more than life. She had heard that one should wait an hour before swimming after a meal.

Forever after, Grandma would not allow us to take a bath within an hour of dining.....for fear we might drown.

Grandma had also heard that if you gave dogs chocolate, it would give them worms. It turns out that chocolate is bad for, good call, Grannie......but I argued and argued with her about the concept: "Grandma.....if chocolate gives dogs worms.....there must be worm eggs in the chocolate. It should give me worms, too......."

Grandma was was unmoved. "Chocolate gives dogs worms."

"There is fire danger in Cachagua......"

So......We have lost probably $5,000 in lost business during the course of the fire......not counting the cost of running the blockade and handing out supplies, or the lost opportunity cost of actually spending time in the office......and tomorrow night we are closed again. God forbid people should drive to Cachagua and have a meal.....SEVEN MILES from the nearest active fire source. Punt off another three grand.

The California Highway Patrol is one of the finest law enforcement agencies on The Planet.....and California highways present a major challenge even to them. These officers are highly skilled....and don't come cheap.

Did you hear? California can't pay its bills.......We are firing teachers.

We have a CHP officer sitting at Sleepy Hollow, 24-7. Mostly, they detect a silly yellow pass on the dashboard of the given oncoming vehicle and wave them through.......


When the Sheriff's Office first put this insanely stupid system in place on Friday at 3pm.....I was driving from Cachagua to town. The very first vehicle I saw driving towards me was the unregistered and uninsured work-truck of Jake The Fucking Scumbag......a full-time burglar, drug-addict, drug-dealer and constant poacher and murderer of wildlife.


Good job, Sheriff. Consider trying Cialis, rather than jerking around your constituency for fun and practice.

I just had some Fig Newmans.......I guess I have to wait an hour to take a bath, huh?

Friday, July 18, 2008

It is a warp........

Seriously warped......Thanks to MocoTony for that one.

Check this out.......Unbelievable.

Orwellian crap from hell.....

Someone please check out the recall procedure.

I need a pass for my workers and my family to get to home and work........issued by an outfit so fucking incompetent that they have to ask directions to the Incident Command Post......a location which is even listed on the maps you get at AVIS!


Basin Complex Fire

Monterey Ranger District---Los Padres National Forest

Monterey County Sheriff’s Office

July 18, 2008, 2:00 p.m.

Resident Road Pass Issuance

Effective Friday, July 18, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.

the following action will occur:

The Sheriff’s Department will begin to issue road access passes to residents living in the vicinity of Carmel Valley Road and Cachagua Road.

The Monterey County Sheriffs Department is instituting a pass system to residents and their employees along Carmel Valley Road and Cachagua area. Residents living within the Cachagua Fire District can obtain passes from the Cachagua Fire Department. Residents living along the lower portion of Carmel Valley Road can obtain their passes from the California Highway Patrol officer situated near the junction of Carmel Valley Road and Arroyo Seco Road daily between 6:00 am and 8:00PM. Residents will also need to obtain passes for their workers.

These passes are only valid for travel restrictions during voluntary evacuations. Passes are not valid during mandatory evacuations. Only passes from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department are valid.

For Basin Complex Fire information go to, or call the Monterey County Emergency Operations Center at (831) 796-1990 or go to their website at

It's a wrap......

At the end of film shoots.....even piddly little still photography deals, or car commercials.......there is this tremendous let-down. The intense nature of the cooperative effort it takes to push something like that through in a few days or weeks creates a bond that goes beyond just the lies almost down to a serotonin level. You have developed all these skills and abilities to function under high levels of stress with high levels of cooperation.

For a couple of days you wander around with this strange sense of you almost don't deserve the real sleep and the ability to sit down and eat.

We got a little of that when the El Sur part of the fire wrapped. When the blockade lifted there were all these non-fire guys on the roads. The checkpoint was more dropping off meals to the CHP' more learning not to duck when the helicopters flew over with loads of water just more feeling like we were helping. We weren't special anymore.

So....the blockade was lifted in Cachagua last night. There was none of that post-wrap depression. We are all sick of this shit.....the silly blockade and evac order.....all that. Being able to get up and down the mountain was a huge finally getting out of that cold, sandy swimsuit.

This morning it was 48 degrees and foggy. I had the heat on in the car, for chrissakes. All the poison oak has turned bright red.....overnight. It is like Mother Nature has turned the corner as well. And, instead of the letdown because of the discontinuation of that sense of community......we have a much strong bond around here than we had three weeks ago. I get goosebumps when I hear Bear's voice every morning.......

Today we have backburns in the area west of Los Padres Dam.....and mopping up along Anastasia Canyon and the Valley road down to Piney Creek. The evac order for Martin Road and the Hardesty Ranch will probably be pulled tonight or tomorrow morning.

The new hotspots up by Pine Valley do not represent new progress on that front according to those who should know.

So....all is calm. Well, all was calm before! Grandpa Fred says that if everyone would just go home and get out of his front yard, the fire would go to sleep all on its own. Of course, no one would be taking in a grand a day on the government nickel anymore, either. Toddie still hates James, a bunch of people still hate Toddie, a bunch of other people give Toddie props for pitching in to the community.......and Toddie is finding use for his 52 weeks of anger management classses.

Oh..........and the Sheriff is still an incompetent asshole.

And the Volunteers and the Firefighters are still hard at it and still heroes.......still in the wet swimsuit. I apologize to them for mentioning sleeping and eating sitting down.

If no one has gotten the point......the Cachagua Volunteers deserve all of our praise and respect and thanks......and some damn cash. Rod had a $1000 challenge grant.....which I think is insulting. A lousy grand? Come on folks.......I spent $1300 on Thermo-Gel I won't need because of their skill and hard work. We all ought to be good for a grand each, don't you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Morning report.....

KION reported that there is a involuntary voluntary evacuation in place. That kind of sums things up.

Here is the morning satellite pass. YIPES! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

No, all those red dots are the backburn activity. It was scarily impressive last night....this morning the skies are pretty much clear from Johnny Kinder's place at the top of Laurel Springs.

The report from the fire guys is that the backburns went perfectly: "a classic backburn". The CalFire crew seems to have been in charge of that......amongst them the intimidatingly strac and organized female crews Toddie and I saw on Tuesday. All of Anastasia Canyon dozer lines were taken care of......with Structure Protection engines in place at every house on Lambert Flats.....and lots of spares on Tassajara Road. Piney Creek was also burned.....which I believe accounts for the hotspots across the Valley Road. The other burn ran down the far mesa by Mrs. Cahoon's gravesite. I am sure that......just like Grandpa Fred Nason.....she is non-plussed by all the excitement.

The Laurel Springs Kahoutek will be back in action later today. First, I have to work for a living.......spending 8 hours delivering supplies is tough to explain to all my workers who need checks!

And, finally.....the backburns were so successful that there will be no fire-related reasons for a continued blockade after Saturday. Whether or not the Sheriff deigns to let people return to their jobs, animals, houses, love lives, etc is another question. As before, the CHP and the fire folk are somewhat baffled and ashamed at being on the pointy end of a silly policy being promoted by an agency whose chief has to my knowledge not set foot at the scene.

And....speaking of crime: one of my informants at The Preserve saw a whole bunch of helicopter action at the far end of the Preserve. The fire activity flushed out a pot plantation that ran to some 32,000 plants.....some serious work and organization. And risk. 20 guys....full time? That is some organized crime.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

They Ain't Never Heard Ol' Camp Cookie Sing......

"But they ain't never seen the Northern Lights....
Never heard the hawk on the wing....
Ain't never heard the Spring hit the Great Divide....
And they ain't never heard old Camp Cookie sing......"

"I wonder....... why do they ride for their money?
Tell me why do they rope for short pay?
They ain't a gettin' nowhere......
and they're losin' their share......

Son, they all must be crazy out there......"

Chris Ledoux song.....with Jerry Jeff Walker as the best exponent. Though Ian Tyson rocks the house as well.....

And then I-tunes segues into Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds"......

Teary-eyed sleep for me....


I got a ride-by short-story today.......dropped at the Store.

The sender chooses to remain anonymous....but it was not an email.

There was a horse involved.

I said that I would identify the sender as a "CowPerson".....which should have caused the instant explosion of my Confidant's brain.

I have know The Confidant for a million billion years. The Confidant and I are both lovers of pies....berry pies to be specific. The Confidant is the only person I have ever known who has, as do I.....ordered an entire pie to be saved for him for dessert upon arrival in the restaurant.

Even when The Confidant's family interceded and tried to discourage this behavior in my place.....The Confidant said "Fuck you....." and retired to the kitchen to enjoy his pie in peace. The family had the idea that the fats and sugars in the pie would shorten The Confidant's already long life....completely ignoring the ability of sheer unrestrained joy to carry us on for decades.....

When we first bought The Store, my dear partner Amanda had recently relocated from Los Angeles. Despite her big city trappings, she is a lover of animals who is almost without peer. She communicates with them effortlessly......Unfortunately, instead of bending them to her will, she encourages their various idiosyncrasies and neuroses. Amanda is not the Dog Whisperer.....she is the Dog Enabler.

One day, The Confidant's old dog showed up at The Store.....looking seriously old, tired, hot and bedraggled. Picture John McCain with dark fur.....Amanda immediately produced mineral water in a sparkling clean bowl.....and the hound's breathing and heartrate eventually decreased, along with the panting.

Next, she moved on to the gastronomic needs of the creature. Who knows what took place.

Several hours later, The Confidant himself appeared on horseback and noticed his cattle dog sitting under the bench with the various and sundry ne'er do wells.

"By God....that is my dog."

Amanda: "Oh, thank Goodness. We have been taking care of her for a few hours. I think she was lost."

"Well, good. But.....listen. You did not feed my dog, did you Young Lady? Because out here in The West we have a saying: "Feed my dog, steal my dog!"

"You didn't try to steal my dog........ did you?"

Amanda dissolved in a flurry of blushes and hand flutters.

The Confidant collected his dog and turned to me.....with a huge wink.

Here is his Fire Story:

A funny thing happened today at our little Cachagua ranch. A sherfiff drove up and told us that we could "voluntarily evacuate" our ranch (because of the fire).

I asked: "You mean we can leave if we want to?"

"That's right," he said.

I told this well-meaning officer that I have been voluntarily evacuating my ranch for 52 years. Sometimes even involuntarily....depending on the mood of my wife.

Meanwhile, I was leaning through his wwindow, smoking a fine cigar. I love a good cigar.....and a large ash dropped on his seat and started a small fire under his 38 Smith and Wesson service revolver, which involuntarily went off.

All of this startled me, and since he was parked next to our ranch fire hydrant, I grabbed the four inch line and yelled to my grandson (five year's old) to "turn it on!"

This hose has a pressure of 100 psi, which blew the Sheriff''s partner out of the passenger side door......without even opening it.


These fine young men completely lost their cool. I was trying to help them and they tried to arrest me! I held them off with the firehose as they tried to handcuff me.

They finally left.

My moral is this: Just don't say anything to a Sheriff. Just evacuate.....voluntarily or not!

The Dustbowl......

The MODUS is quiet tonight.....which is odd because we had big plumes of smoke freaking some folks out coming from the Anastasia/White Oaks area. Backburns, finally....the East Coast humidity has finally gone off East.

I had to calm down a "firefighter"....wearing a Crocodile Dundee hat with a bandanna: "No....I am a firefighter and I KNOW! Those flames are coming from Parrot Ranch!" People started scurrying around.

I had just returned from Parrot Ranch.....and Laurel Springs.....and the fire was the least of the problems.

I was up there driving around by myself in my Bronco because the locals rejected all my volunteer co-pilots....those with local knowledge and functioning 4wd vehicles.

The run started out well.

As I was plotting with an un-named fire authority to breach the gauntlett on my own in a sketchy vehicle....two Sheriffs came into the Store.

Keep in mind my name is on the Arson/Looter WatchList.

"Uh.....Listen. We understand that you......"

I ran into the back. "You are making illegal deliveries that are encouraging rampant law-breaking that is endangering the lives of the gallant firefolk with your silly civil disobedience......."


"We understand........ that you know the local community. Can you tell us how to get to the MIRA observatory?"

Flash, out from the back.

"Even better. Let me show you how to get there! You can follow me!"

I feel so safe under Sheriff Kanalakis' watch. Someone did point out that we may be getting the Special Olympics Deputies. Who else would volunteer to drive around in the middle of nowhere, without a donut shop in mortar range?

My first stop was an aging, one-legged, heavily medicated person a mile up a crappy dirt road. She needed Ben and Jerry's, muffins, oreos, and crappy chocolate to match her road. Of course, the gate was locked, with nine heavy locks.....and pit bulls chased me around when I tried to walk the stuff in. And I could be sending people bills in my nice office rather than taking this shit.....

Next was the older Italian couple up the hill. They got fresh figs and zucchini from Joanie and Lyle, only slightly smashed toilet paper, organic extra virgin olive oil from Petaluma......and milk. Well, and some heirloom tomatoes. If your name is Salvatore Megna, and you need olive might as well have figs and tomatoes to round out the deal. Oh, and 50# of kitty food for the crazy cat lady neighbor, grace a SPCA.

Then up to the Solar Guy. His directions involved going to the Jamesburg School. I had last been at the Jamesburg school in 1978. I remembered a steel post and a gate.....which I thought was good going. It turns out there are more than one steel posts and gates. My delivery guy was patient: "Starting at Sal's have Pinkie's across the street. That doesn't really count. We'll call that driveway Zero. I am at Driveway One, Two, Three....."

Let me guess....steel post and gate.


Solar Guy was thrilled to have salad fixings and a porterhouse steak. Joanie's zucchini, Ed Stark's porterhouse.

I got directions to my next stop....which actually I had been to three times looking for the fucking steel post and gate.

"Go down the driveway.....and when you get to the 'This Way, That Way' Sign.....they are That Way....."

Talking about pot smoking in Jamesburg/Cachagua not only pisses off the locals....but treads on the ground of something akin to racism. Like admiring the watermelons at Mississippi county fair. Or talking about whiskey and potatoes in Ireland.

"This Way, That Way"?

Am I wrong to think that marijuana may have been somewhere involved in that thought process? Possibly. But likely back in the Marble Cone Fire era......1977.

Well, works. The This Way guys needed propane and gas. I found my clients on the That Way side. Their son had sent up specialized cat food and some Coronas.

On the way I ran into some neighbors who stopped me to tell me how happy they were to have retrieved the Sunday Herald from the floor of Toddie's truck the day before.

Voila! I had today's Herald! There was Joy In Mudville! Uh.....Dustville.

On the way out I passed a firetruck. I would have loved to have seen their directions.

At this point the motor on my rear window all the dust from the road poured into the Bronco.....and into my lungs.

I had many more stops, most of them up Laurel Springs.

Laurel Springs is talked about as an actual thoroughfare. Many, many people live up there.....nice, intelligent people. Actually.....some of the more intelligent folk I deal with. is a dusty motherfucker. Including the Featherbow part of the climb.....I kept passing through sections of pounded Carmel Stone chalkrock.....the inhalation of which has proven to be fatal to horses. But, hey. I ain't no horse. I started breathing through my Basque hat like some demented lost Basque soul on the Tokyo subway system.

The best part was that there was a Forest Service brand-new pickup truck in front of me. He had missed that whole "Driving on Dirt Road Courtesy" part of the Amy Vanderbilt education that I am sure all US Government executives undergo. He was punching stay ahead of me to give the dust a chance to settle before I came through, probably.

The dust from his wake will be settling about next March.

In the fog of silicosis I finally detected a living, breathing human form. An actual Irish guy, like me.....strolling on the top of the mountain in the middle of nowhere. I asked directions to my quarry's place.

"Uh. We know each other, so I will do this. But, I will only do this once." Suddenly I was back in the IRA in Belfast. Shit.

"The guy lives up the road, and I will tell you how to get to his place. But you have to would be better if you didn't go there....."


"You know how you wait for someone to die....because they are so horrible they need to die, but you don't want to kill them?"

"And they don't fucking die on their own.......and it really pisses you off?"

Uh, yeah. If I drive really fast.....maybe the silicosis will get him?

I had two deliveries....three if you count Johnny and Rogelio. The first one had cancelled her order under command of the Queen of the Mountain. All mountain folk were to shun my delivery service because of Toddie. As I drove by, I called: "Uh...I am driving by....if you still want your stuff, I have it in the truck........." No answer.

After two wrong turns, only one of them death-defying......I found my client. As I unloaded the dust-soaked Budweiser and shoveled off the silicosis inducing film from the ice-chest to get out the bags of ice, my guy said: "Uh, actually it is for Brad. Oh, here he comes now."

So.....the guy who actually wanted the beer, ice, cigarettes and milk was afraid to break the Toddie he had his neighbor call in the order his wife had already placed so that I would deliver it 100m up the road......and the only person who could give me directions was a guy who wouldn't mind the death of the neighbor accepting the delivery of the goods for the guy who didn't want to defy the boycott because Toddie used to be an asshole.

Hey....there is a day well spent!

I got me within 500m of Johnny Kinder's farm, though. Johnny and Rogelio.

A nicer, kinder, sweeter couple could not be found on the planet. Even though I arrived unannounced and buried in dust that will require multiple dry-cleanings after the two mandatory hugs.....they gave me the tour of the farm.

We arranged a pickup for tomorrow of salad greens and squash. John was so concerned about the quality of his greens that we timed the pickup to within an hour. Salad is so much better if it is consumed fresh.

This made my whole day. It was an hour drive up the dusty mountain breathing through my Basque boino......but tomorrow I will get greens fresher than anyone in America. We are working for Pakistani Generals and Admirals and their Indian counterparts for my clients who are trying to stop the next war now. These greens are going to be so fucking awesome that it just might work......

On the way down the mountain with my rear window failing and the dust pouring in....oh, and I was out of gas after my one hour climb in Low 4WD.....I noticed an electrical burning smell. The battery was dead, and I had to bump start from Kinder's. Halfway down the mountain, the Bronco was filled with smoke as well as dust.......I had an electrical fire. I was now the Comet Kahoutek.

Picture the joy in PIO Dixon's and Sheriff's Kanalakis' lives if the blockade runner wound up igniting an entire mountain of slacker, illegal stay-at-home lawbreakers....

The impulse of the impending conflagaration more brakes. The dust and ensuing silicosis caused by my whirlwind passing down that mountain will not settle until the next big fire.......

But....I made it.

All is good and calm in the Cachagua Valley.

And Jamesburg, too........

Here is the MODUS image from Johnny's. Realize that he is a few hundred feet lower. We could see big plumes of smoke from the backfires that MODUS can't see. The fire break that runs along the ridge to the right has been re-worked. It runs up to the MIRA observatory. When John was in good health, the hike would take him about four hours.

So....short of Grandpa Fred...this is the guy closest to the fire.

Are you scared yet?

Excedrin headache.....

Our friendly political operative's Mom does not live in Princes Camp. She lives 50 feet away, outside the gates. I did not realize that Princes Camp was a perjorative. I always thought Helga and Robert run a tight ship. My apologies for the over-simplification.

Now JENSEN Camp........there's a perjorative.

The buzz from above is that the people on the Mountain are being completely unreasonable and risking the lives of the glorious and valiant firefighters for the satisfaction of their own egos.......WHEN THE FIRE IS ONLY A MILE AWAY!!!

Ths sky is falling, the sky is falling.

The first page of the Kern County Emergency Planning guide has a WWII era poster: Remain Calm".

A quick check from the satellite reveals that the fire is actually either five and a half miles away, or five miles away......across a giant canyon, a number of firelines, etc. Lambert Flats is about a mile and a half from the active front of the fire in the White Oaks area. My rule line runs from the end of Laurel Springs Road to the top of Miller Canyon. The line to the White Oaks is about the same distance.

Here is the 3D version.

Actual calm, wise and experienced local heads point out that in past fire and water emergencies, the calmer, wiser authorities have arranged daily caravans in and out of the area affected. People could get their own supplies, go to work, go to doctors, etc. What would that be like?

As of this morning we have three deputy sheriffs parked in front of The Store. Our supply runs would seem to be somewhat curtailed. Gasoline, propane, pet foods, staples will still go up through a work-around.

And, please.....get your panties out of a bunch. Toddie Springs has retired as relief driver, by popular demand. He was kind enough to donate use of his truck when a local lunatic took the keys to my Bronco as a souvenir. His intimate knowledge of the local terrain was a plus....I thought. Turns out his knowledge is a little TOO intimate for some folks. Everyone should realize that we having going in as a team......

The practical problems presented by the blockade have continued to be solved by our native ingenuity. Bernardus Winery had umpteen barrels of the new chardonnay is desperate need of topping off with inert gas to maintain their integrity. Let us just say that it was taken care of. With the number of vineyards in the affected area........let us know if you need something done. We have an experienced winery and vineyard hand inside the lines.

Correction and apology...

PIO Dixon is not with CalFire....which I should have figured out since they are the good guys. The prick is a public information officer with Kern County.

Today there is backfiring in the Anastasia Canyon area and along Blue Rock Ridge by Los Padres. They have been trying to get that area to light for days now, and our weirdly muggy, East Coast summer weather has not been cooperating.

So.....lots of smoke is a good thing.

Here is the latest MODUS image. Lambert Flats road is along the bottom of the image. The open space is the flats by the Nason Ranch.....currently full of probably 100 engines. The big cut that was done first was done along the line just above Lambert can see the line they followed. The new line runs above.....I will get the skinny from the dozer guys later today.

Here is the other fork of the fire. You can see the line holding, with the slight slopover. The new red dots possibly reflect the continuing efforts to get unburned areas to burn. And, the good news that there is little fire progression down Pine Valley.

Hennickson's Ridge Runners are back in business in a few hours. Call in your orders!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One love, One heart.....

Let's get together and feel alright.....

So.....the Sheriff and some wingnut from Kern County combined to cockblock our relief effort.

Chuck Dixon....or Dickson....of Kern County Fire.......yelled at Rod McMahan for 45 minutes straight about the immorality of Cachagua Fire "enabling" civil disobedience in the hills of Jamesburg by facilitating our relief effort. Rod was unable to explain to the dipshit that these people are not and never were leaving their homes under any circumstances. I got this report not from Rod, but from witnesses. Rod is in seclusion.

My friend Scott Dick from KRXA540 made the mistake of calling me for comment about the fire this afternoon. Off air, he warned me sternly about my language. It seems that right-wingnuts have been calling him up on air and telling him to shove interesting things up his ass.

And Scott has a cat, not a donkey......Strange.

Anyway, I told worries. I promise not to use the F-word. As a former engineer, I only had a scientific announcement which I will repeat here.

From my friends at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.....just a block from the Dakota building and across the street from Stawberry Fields.....called with an exciting announcement.

"Charles 'Chuck' Dixon....from Kern County CalFire has been identified as possessing the smallest penis ever observed on a human male......"

After Toddie, me and Ross Curtis were identified on our local arsonist watch list.....Toddie returned to the Ranger Station for instructions.

Discretion prevents me from identifying the public agencies involved in the ensuing discussion......but suffice it to say that the summary of the conversation went as follows:

"GEE. Too bad there is no other way up the Mountain than by the ROAD, isn't it!" Everyone turned and faced south....towards the dozer cuts.

Where there is a will.....there are a plethora of ways.

Meanwhile I dropped a dime about Chuck Dixon and his tiny little penis. I called Abel Maldonado, our State Senator. Abel is aptly named. He and his chief of staff are the wiliest and smartest political guys in California. Abel got the endorsement of both Democrats and Republicans and is running unopposed in November. He is a can-do kind of guy.

I like him.....even though I am not a big fan of his politics.

Abel's chief of staff and main hitman is coming on our delivery run tomorrow. His mom lives in Princes Camp.

Want to add a little squeak to the wheel? Call his local office: 657-6315. Abel has Sheriff Mike K by the short hairs. Mike will listen to Abel. Abel will listen to you.

I would suggest Cialis for both Sheriff Mike and Chuck Dixon. Why get your butts in an uproar about one truckload of supplies for constituents per day on roads empty of any traffic.

Oh.....and Sheriff Mike and Senator Abel:

We don't need fucking roads......

Tomorrow, depending upon the outcome of our meeting with Abel's people.....look forward to my humble apology to all French people and lesbians about the misuse of a term for certain perfectly fun sexual practices that I mistakenly applied to a total dirt bag.


In other news....Grandpa Fred watched some non-local dozer guys cut right through his water system above the Ranch. As he walked over, cursing, to inspect....six Latino guy dressed in camos came out of the woods by the break....carrying "really big rifles". They dispersed professionally, and later an SUV swooped them up below the Ranch and whisked them off down the road.

I though I felt a little silly when the smoke blew down hill this morning......

Unreality check.....

The Sheriff just sent a unit out to the Trampa Canyon blockade specifically to stop us from doing a relief supply run for the Jamesburg folk. Everything was cleared with CalFire, CHP, the Cachagua Fire guys.

As we approached the checkpoint, the deputy flagged us down: "Are you Springs or Curtis?"

Ross Curtis was the one arrested for setting a backfire to save his house in Big Sur.....and is apparently an arsonist in the eyes of the Sheriff.

We have made the list

I really thought I had seen the most stupid bureaucratic incompetence and finagling......

I guess there is always room for growth......even in stupidity.

No news is......

So......the humidity is sort of good, and sort of not good. The damp air causes the fire to lay down at night.....there are no new hotspots on the MODUS images. The bad part is that it is not possible to complete backburns.

The Anastasia Canyon line was completed just below Lambert Flats on down to Carmel Valley Road at the Cahoon Ranch end of the canyon. This line was cut in case the spot fire below MIRA decided to get frisky. A giant back burn was planned for the entire area between Tassajara Road and Carmel Valley Road basically. This will probably required a mandatory evacuation of everybody from Tassajara Road to Piney Creek on Carmel Valley Road: Hastings, Hardesty Ranch, the Cahoon Ranch, etc.

This will undoubtedly ruffle more feathers since the folks will be evacuated or penned up in their homes while nothing happens. The nothing that is happening is the backfire experts are waiting for the humidity to drop so that they can get a good burn.

Picture a cigarette, lit and smouldering on the lip of an ashtray.....this is a bad burn. The stuff is kind of burning, but all it needs is a little oxygen and off we go. A good burn would be someone actively smoking the thing and burning up the fuel in a controlled manner.

Meanwhile, since the fire has laid down....the boys were able to cut a second line down from the Nason Ranch along the lines that Lyle predicted: an old '77 Marble Cone cut that has grown out. This line cuts the burnout area in half. It runs to the south of the big line, on a beeline for Mrs. Cahoon's gravesite. I will post up a Google Earth image when I get away from the Store in a few hours.

Rod McMahan of the Volunteers has been up the Hennickson Highway and checked out the dozer line. Like all of us, he was afraid that it was a clear cut......sad but necessary. On the contrary..... Terry Bishop, Callie, Deano and the others have left islands, protected the gorgeous madrones and the big heritage oaks in the White Oaks area. Hats off, once again. Skill, courage, hard work, humor and sensitivity........And not all these guys are married!

Associated Looters and Scumbags is doing another run soon....with luck. The CHP yesterday attempted to stop the Cachagua Volunteer Rescue truck from taking medical supplies in to a patient. Unfortunately for the CHP chick, Bear was driving the Rescue......and Bear don't play.

SPCA has donated a big pile of dog and kitty food, and Toddie is doing a run for a bunch of hay they have donated as well. The road closure is sure to continue into the near future, so these supplies are both essential and greatly appreciated. Yay SPCA!

The strict enforcement of the road closure seems strictly punitive.......punishing people for not leaving their homes and animals. Meanwhile, the fire is nowhere near 90% of the affected area. Yesterday, even at Grandpa Fred Nason's......with the fire across the road, there was a sense of calm and serenity: "I am too old to be afraid of a little fire......"

Or even a lot of fire.

Reality check....

Oh, Peace! Love! Tie-Dye!

The sense of community!

Believe it or not, people actually complained to the Forest Service and the Volunteers about our humanitarian run up the mountain yesterday.

They accused us of looting.

How much meth do you have to be doing to be that paranoid to twist taking food to Rodrigo, and dropping off free cat and dog food into an evil mission to loot empty houses?

Oh.....maybe that is the meth getting in!


Anyway, before my early morning check with Bear and Rod.....there are no new hotspots on the MODUS satellite pass anywhere. Just look at yesterday's or Sunday's images and change all the red to orange, and the orange to yellow.

More soon from Looter Central.

Kenny Wright.

Here is a Letter to the Editor of the Salinas Californian from my friend Ken Wright.

Ken was the resident CHP Officer in Big Sur for a bunch of years. His wife, Mary, is a California Parks exec with skills so finely honed that various and sundry politicians of all political stripes keep refusing to let her retire from saving our commons. They own Glen Oaks in Big Sur...the motel, the gas station and the restaurant across the street.

Some few years back Ken had some crazy heart surgery.....bypasses, transplants....who knows. All I know is that five weeks after surgery the fucking guy was out JOGGING!

I first met Ken in 1976. I was driving down the Coast in my 1969 Dodge Dart with no back seats, drinking an Oatmeal Ale from Scotland when the lights lit up behind me. I turned into Palo Colorado Road like I was going to run for it. I quickly gave it up....and stashed my beer under the seat.

Ken stopped me....license and registration, etc......and then reached into the car, under the seat and pullled out the bottle of beer.

"You weren't drinking and driving were you?"

"Oh, no. I had that with my lunch an hour ago."

"Funny....the bottle is still cold, and the foam is still fresh."

Listen, when you drive in Big is important not to bullshit the bullshitter."

He let me drift with a warning.

I next saw him a couple of weeks later at Seeley Mudd's ranch, Glen Deven, at the top of Garrapata Canyon. Cecil Andrus was the guest....the Secretary of the Interior under Jimmy Carter. Alan Cranston was the Senator from California. Leon Panetta was the Congressman. Ken was also a guest,as local law enforcement. When we were discussing seating arrangements, Seeley said: "This guy goes here, this guy goes there....and Leon Panetta goes at my feet where he belongs....."

Leon was later the Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton in the White House.....but back then, even Seeley Mudd understood who the real VIP was at the meeting....Kenny Wright.

I told my girls the same: "The only VIP here is the CHP guy......take care of him and fuck all the rest of these clowns......"

Here is Kenny's letter:

SOAPBOX: Sheriff let Big Sur folks down

By KEN WRIGHT • July 12, 2008

I would like to share a perspective on those in Big Sur who chose to remain during the evacuation and fire. While many know Big Sur for its scenic beauty, fewer understand the character of its community of self-reliant, capable citizens.

Living in Big Sur is not the same as visiting, nor of having a vacation home here. It requires the willingness to accept the periodic power outages, road closures due to mud slides and wildfires as part of living in a world-class area of great natural beauty.

It is also a community which retains frontier values, paramount amongst them - the willingness to assist the community and one's neighbors in the event of natural disasters.

During the almost 40 years I have lived in Big Sur, this is the spirit I have practiced and observed. During the road closures, fires and evacuations of the past I have worked with public agencies to assist their efforts, to assist members of the community and the Big Sur businesses.

Into this context stepped Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, the first time since his election that he had the opportunity to serve the community of Big Sur in the face of an emergency. His failure to provide the necessary leadership was complete and unmitigated. By the nature of the mandatory evacuation and its effect on the residents, as well as businesses, many in the community were both homeless and unemployed.

As a result of the inconsistent and seemingly vindictive enforcement of the evacuation order, some members of the community signed county liability waiver forms in order to stay and protect the community and assist the firefighting effort, only later to learn that if they attempted to leave their property they were subject to arrest.

Despite the callous law enforcement component of this evacuation, we in the Big Sur community are deeply grateful to the courageous efforts of the firefighters. Throughout the critical days of the Basin fire, crews from agencies throughout the country worked long and often dangerous hours on behalf of this community.

I am a retired peace officer, having spent 23 years as the resident CHP officer in Big Sur and well understand the role of law enforcement in times of natural disaster. I also recognize the chest thumping of those in positions of authority who perceive that authority has been challenged.

This is the behavior that the sheriff manifested during this time of opportunity to demonstrate leadership, compassion and community-based law enforcement. Despite the efforts of many of our elected representatives, notably U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, Assemblymember John Laird, D-Santa Cruz; and county Supervisor Dave Potter, it was many critical days before they were able to influence the decisions of Kanalakis.

The only voice I seem to have in his regard is at the ballot box. I certainly intend to make my voice heard at the next election.

KEN WRIGHT lives in Juan Higuera Canyon in Big Sur.